Coronavirus: Queen postpones visit from Japan's Emperor as she leaves London early

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace, London, for Windsor Castle. (Press Association)

The Queen has left London after postponing a planned state visit from the Japanese Emperor and Empress in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 93-year-old monarch was due to host Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masakois in the UK in May.

A note from Buckingham Palace read: “After consultation with Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of Japan, Her Majesty The Queen has agreed that, in the current circumstances, the planned State Visit to the United Kingdom in Spring 2020 by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan should be postponed.

“The State Visit will be rescheduled at a later date.”

It’s the latest event in Her Majesty’s calendar to be postponed as the monarch takes precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Queen was pictured leaving the capital on Thursday to go to Windsor Castle for Easter Court. She was originally due to leave next week.

The Union Flag flies at Buckingham Palace after Queen Elizabeth II left London for Windsor Castle. (PA Images)

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It’s reported that Prince Philip was flown from Sandringham to Windsor by helicopter to join her for the break.

They have not seen each other since February.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “The Duke of Edinburgh has arrived at Windsor Castle to join the Queen for Easter Court, as planned.”

She had her dogs with her, and one of them could be seen looking out of the window as they drove off. Her corgis are called Candy and Vulcan.

The Queen had continued holding audiences at Buckingham Palace but her regular weekly meeting with the prime minister was held over the phone.

There were no handshakes at her audience and she sat a good distance from the Captain and Commodore. (PA Images)

She did receive Captain Angus Essenhigh, the new Commanding Officer of the Royal Navy warship HMS Queen Elizabeth, and his predecessor Commodore Stephen Moorhouse.

However they did not shake hands during the audience, with the captain and commodore bowing to the Queen.

Read more: Will the Queen have to self-isolate? How world's royal families are affected by coronavirus

Beatrice was forced to cancel the reception of her wedding. (Getty Images)

On Wednesday evening, it was also announced Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mews and The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh would be closed to the public.

The Royal Collection Trust shops will also be closed temporarily from Saturday.

The trust said in a statement: “The safety and wellbeing of our visitors and staff are our priority.”

Those with pre-booked tickets will be offered refunds.

The trust added: “The last day of operation will be Friday 20 March. Ticket sales for visits from 21 March until 1 May 2020 will be halted, and anyone who has booked to visit between those dates will automatically be refunded.

“As this is a rapidly evolving situation, we are unable to confirm a date on which the palaces, galleries and shops will reopen, but will monitor Government and Public Health England advice.”

Windsor Castle will be closed to the public for the timebeing. (Getty Images)

The palace has cancelled this year’s garden parties. All those invited to the five events will be invited to the 2021 parties instead.

And the Queen’s granddaughter Princess Beatrice has been forced to cancel the reception of her wedding on 29 May.

She and her fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi will also be reviewing government advice to see what their ceremony should look like, and may scale it back.

Read more: Coronavirus: Queen cancels Buckingham Palace garden parties - but audiences continue

It comes as the government announced all schools in England will close once the last bell rings on Friday afternoon, in a bid to prevent further spread of the disease.

The only children educated in schools will be the children of key workers, like NHS staff, and delivery drivers.

The Queen's annual parties won't happen this summer. (Getty Images)

Wales and Scotland had already announced school closures, with Nicola Sturgeon warning parents not to expect they would automatically reopen after the planned Easter break.

Prince William and Prince Harry have also both spoken about the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle address coronavirus outbreak: 'These are uncertain times'

William helped launch a fundraising initiative with the National Emergencies Trust to encourage people to give to local charities.

Harry and his wife Meghan posted on Instagram to say they would do their bit to help share expert information as well as sharing measures to help with people’s mental well-being.